Saturday, August 17, 2013

Training Stay vs. Wait

I train the wait command before I train stay. I don't have any reasoning behind this - it's just the way I do it.

Some people think stay and wait are the same. They aren't. Stay means "stay exactly where you are, don't move a muscle, until I tell you." Wait means "Stay exactly where you are and watch me for your next cue."

Good uses for wait:
- Prevent dog from charging the food dish
- Prevent dog from chasing
- Teach dog self-control (althoug, techincally, it isn't self control, since I'm controlling it... but eh, whatever.)

Here's some real world examples.

We are at the vet. A small dog starts getting mouthy. Bugs would really, really like to chase that dog down and maybe even bite it. Not on my watch, lady - WAIT. Because wait is a combination of focus and micro stay, her attention is on me 100% despite what's going on in the environment. Then I tell her to lie down and settle - and she does, because she's focused on me.

We are on a trail in the woods. Bugs spies a chipmunk. She starts pulling on the leash - but hold up. That chipmunk is headed for thick pricker bushes. WAIT!! She stops, looks at me, quivering and drooling.... that chipmunk looks so tasty, Mom! Now I say "Let's go!" which is her cue that it's time to get a move on. We walk off, the chipmunk safe from doberjaws and Bugs safe from the brambles.

So... how did I accomplish this?

First off, let me say that I am very lucky to have a dog who is intelligent and eager to please. If your dog isn't, you'll have to practice more frequently and be patient I firmly believe all dogs can learn this, with plenty of effort and consistency.

We started with treats. I placed a treat on the floor and said WAIT! with a hand signal.

Here's an example of the hand signal, with Bruno waiting and focusing....

Note that the hand signal is fairly relaxed - this isn't a firm palm forward like with a stay.

Anyway, back to business - place the treat on the floor and say WAIT with a hand signal. When the dog goes to get the treat, give the correction sound - ah ah ah ah ah!! - and visually block the treat for a second. Reinforce - WAIT. Good wait!

Your dog is still going to try to go for that treat on the floor, and that's okay. He only needs to wait for a second or two. Only mark and release when the dog is WAITING - not when he gets up to get the treat. If he has taken even one step towards the treat and you release and let him get it, presto! you just taught him NOT to wait.

Once he's waited for a second, mark (YES!) and release (OKAY!) and cue him to take the treat (Take it!)

Sometimes dogs are confused by this and won't go get the treat when released. That's fine - pick it up and give it to him while saying "Take it!"

Practice this lots of times throughout the day. You can use treats or part of your dogs daily diet, if you're watching your dog's weight.

Once your dog can wait for a few seconds, it's time to increase the duration of the wait. This shouldn't be hard to do, because you've practiced like crazy and your dog is awesome at the two second wait.

Now it's time to generalize. Start making him wait to go outside - if he goes out despite you telling him to wait, verbally correct and start over. (Note: Don't do this if he's been crated all day, has bladder control issues, or is learning housetraining.)

Be sure to give him a cue when he's done waiting - remember, that's the point of the exercise. Wait = wait right where you are for the next cue. You can cue anything, really. Like this:

(Cue)  Bugs, wait!
(Mark) Yes! Good wait! WAIT....
(Release) Okay!
(Cue) Now JUMP!
(Mark)  Yes!
(Cue) Down!
(Mark) Yes! Good down!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Busy Day!

We had a great day yesterday, full of success!!

First, Bugs and I went to the vet. She needed a nail trim, and I'm working on getting her accustomed to the dremel, but those nails just keep growing.

When we got there, we ran into a reactive German Shepherd on the porch who sent Bugs off. Instead of yanking on her and freaking out, we just moved to the side of the building, did a few obedience runs, and she calmed right down.

We went into the building and Bugs was amazing. She wasn't running all over like a jerk - she acted like the noble, majestic dog she was bred to be. There were many people in the waiting room and they kept asking me questions about her and remarking on her good behavior. Suddenly, a pomeranian poked his head around the desk and starting barking wildly at Bugs. She began to react and I quickly corrected her (verbally) and told her to WAIT.

She sat down, watched me, and waited, completely ignorng the pom!! The people in the waiting room were amazed at how well she listened. I shouldn't admit this, but I was amazed too - we've been working so hard on this command and she does awesome at home but the vet is a high-stress place and I really thought it would be hard for her to wait under such huge distraction. She sassed me the whole time she was waiting - grumbling under her breath - but I'm fine with that. Sassing Mom is just fine - barking and lunging at another dog is not.

She did have to be muzzled for her nail trim, because the vet techs were a bit intimidated by her, but I am okay with that. She's accustomed to wearing a head collar, so the muzzle was no big deal to her, just an extension of what she's used to.

After that, we went to Tractor Supply and got her a Kong Wubba toy. It's funny, when we're out in public, people either adore her, or they're terrified of her. We came around a corner in Tractor Supply and a group of men sidestepped us, and one of them said "Don't touch that dog!!" This is funny to me because she's so social with people, but of course if someone is intimidated by her, I am not going to allow her to approach them.

An old, old cowboy asked to pet her, and that was the cutest thing ever. This guy had to be in his late eighties or early nineties, and she just loved on him like crazy - no jumping or excessive licking, just a few kisses and tons of doberhugs. He was completely smitten. Maybe Bugs has a future in therapy work?

Then we went to the lumber yard for some supplies I need for a project. She had to stay in the Jeep for that, but was well-behaved. She never acts like a jerk in the car.

We topped it all off with a fun walk in the park. We walked the river trails and she was in heaven! So much to see and sniff!

Then we came home and had dinner, and of course Bugs slept like a log, because that's a busy day for a dobergirl.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Bugs Has Been Busy Lately...

We didn't go to Schutzhund training.

Instead, we learned a bunch of new tricks!!

Bugs learned the names of a few more things, here's the entire list:
Bottle [as in water bottle]
Baby [stuffed animal]

She also learned to jump on cue which is very impressive to watch, as she goes from a down-stay to a massive leap in the air! We keep this to a minimum because her growth plates aren't closed yet and too much jumping can cause injury.

We've worked hard on the "wait" command and Bugs can wait a very long time without cheating. We've tested it up to five minutes, but I bet we could go a lot longer.

Bugs' favorite game is "Which Hand?" - I show her a treat, close my hand, and put both behind my back. She doesn't even go for my hand when I show them to her - she sits and looks for a few seconds, and you can see her brain working, trying to remember which hand the treat is in. She always gets it right!!

Bugs makes a really funny face when she's waiting. It's like she wants to sass me but knows it won't get her anywhere.....

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Happy Birthday, Bugs!!


Bugs the Doberman, a set on Flickr.

Miss Bugs is a year old today!
The past six months have been difficult and rewarding - when Bugs came to me, she was just entering into the "doberteens" and I swear to you, she seemed to actually try to be a pain in the butt! She'd look me in the eye and stick her head in the trash can. I'd ask for a sit and she'd gallop off into the wild blue yonder (aka the bedroom.) I would tell her to lay down next to me and she'd jump on my head.

But for all of that, she's also the most loving dog I've ever known. She'll break her neck to be near me all the time. She loves bear hugs and will stick her bonker (aka nose) through my arms to get one. She's is starting to show signs of the awesome dog that I know she can be, and she's calming down so much.

I can't even put into words how much I love this dog. She's the best thing that's ever happened to me.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Bugs loves toads.

Sometimes Bugs impresses with how gentle she can be.

The other day, Bugs was outside and as I walked by, I saw, through the door, a huge toad jumping from under the deck towards her. She was resting in her kiddie pool and didn't see the toad, so I grabbed my shoes and went out to save it.

In that short time, the toad had hidden himself somewhere and I couldn't find him. So I played with Bugs for a bit and we headed in. At just that moment, out jumped the toad and Bugs pounced. She grabbed him in her mouth as I'm yelling "Leave it! LEAVE IT!"

She didn't drop him so I got it out of her mouth. Lo and behold, that toad was absolutely unscathed!! He had puffed himself all up to make himself scary, but there wasn't a tooth mark on him. He was absolutely unharmed.

I put him in the long grass on the other side of the fence and Bugs and I went in to research if that toad was poisonous. (He wasn't.)

I couldn't believe how gentle she was with it. I think the toad was impressed too - how many other critters have found themselves in the jaws of a seventy pound doberman and lived to tell the tale??

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Restless + Recipe

Bugs has started sleeping in bed with me, now that she has (mostly) grown out of random chewing and other puppy behaviors.

Last night was a crazy night, though. She was restless all night and then I felt her get off the bed, so I got up to see what she was doing. She had one of the kids' stuffed animals and was trying to bring it in bed with us! I don't know if that's because she's becoming an adult and her "mothering" instincts are kicking it, or because she really loves to kill toys! Regardless, I took it away, because even if the kids didn't love it, I don't want her to chew things up; the danger of ingesting something is too great.

She woke up again and I felt her stand up on the bed but not get down. I had fallen asleep with the tv on and Bugs was standing there growling at a commercial for a cat toy! I changed the channel and she laid down but kept watching tv. She's never really paid attention to the television before - not sure why she chose last night to start watching it.

We did some fireworks before bed last night, and she was in the house but didn't seem to be bothered by the sounds. It must have worked her up more than I thought because she just couldn't settle down for bed. Thankfully we live so far out in the middle of nowhere that she won't have to deal with anymore of that from the neighbors or anything.

A member on Doberman Talk shared a recipe for a treat, and Bugs LOVES it, so I thought I would share my version: Dilute beef broth with water and put it in a margarine tub, about half full. Then add chopped cooked meat, veggies, etc and freeze it. It comes out like a hockey puck and takes Bugs quite a while to get through it. It's definitely an outside treat, but it's nice for these hot July days.

Bugs also loves strawberries so I plan on making her a dog food and strawberry birthday cake next weekend for her. Can't believe my big girl is turning a year old already! The last six months have flown by and she's turning into an awesome dog.

I decided her AKC name will be Geruch Mogen Jugendlich Geist, which means "Smells Like Teen Spirit" in German. She's out of Serbian lines, but the Serbian language uses a different alphabet than English so it doesn't translate well.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

IPO (schutzhund) and European working lines

Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk with Brian Harvey of Der Michigan Schutzhund Verein. He has been training police dogs for 34 years and doing competitive schutzhund for about the same length of time. His credentials are awesome - he trains, competes, and judges on a national level.

I described Bugs' temperament to him and he thinks she would be a good candidate, even for bitework! I like this guy because they do NOT start out with prong collars, e-collars, etc. They start out with flat collars and work up as needed, but since Bugs is very biddable and loves to take direction, he doesn't think she'll need any harsh treatment. (I just could not put her through that - it's too much for both of us!)

I was very up-front about Bugs' issues with other dogs. She does great sometimes, and other times she gets all wild and crazy and is difficult for me to control. He wasn't fazed - he said most of the dogs act like that at first. I also told him about the behaviorist who diagnosed it as frustration and he said that's fantastic because we don't want true aggression for a sport. Maybe if she was training for hard-core police work, we might want more aggression, but he said frustration is an indication of drive and that she needs to be taught, through training, what is expected of her.

Bugs doesn't go after people, but here is the way he described IPO to me:
Let's say your dog goes after the mail man, the meter reader, and other dogs. It's in this breed's genetics to be watchful and protective, but without training them what to do with that protective instinct, they can get out of control. So we teach them exactly who and what to bite (the sleeve), and a command to do so. Now they know what to do and that their handler (me) is in control of the situation and that they only need to go nuts when their handler instructs them to.

Bugs isn't well-bred; she originally came from a BYB (backyard breeder) but her first owners didn't realize the dangers of buying a dog from such a breeder, which is a very common mistake. They should not be faulted for this; when you know better, you do better and I'm 100% certain that their future dogs will come from better breeders.

Bugs' sire is Mamut del Nasi, a cast-off from del Nasi kennels in Serbia. Her grand-sire is CAC CACIB Prinz Paris von Jahrestal, and her great grand-sire is the famous IDC SIEGER Fedor Del Nasi.

I have no information about her dam's side of the pedigree, but with her European working blood, she may very well be a good candidate for IPO. I can tell that she needs a job and an outlet, but so far I haven't found the right thing for us. IPO may not be right for either of us, but you never know until you try, so this Sunday we're leaving bright and early for the drive to Hudson to meet with Brian at DMSV. He's going to evaluate her, and we're going to get a chance to see how the dogs at this club are trained. Club fees are reasonable - $150 a month, which includes 8 training sessions a month. That's about what you'd pay for obedience classes and is affordable. I like the fact that I work with her, under supervision of the trainer (some clubs I talked to wanted me to leave her there for a month and they do all the training - that's not going to happen!)

Meanwhile, I am also reading up on various AKC sanctioned sports, in case this isn't right for us. I will not force Bugs to do something that she isn't cut out to do, and if it isn't enjoyable and rewarding for us, then there's no point in doing it. We may very well end up doing something like canine freestyle, since we both really enjoy doing snazzy tricks, but only time will tell.

I am excited to have Bugs evaluated and to see how IPO works, in person. All the reading and youtube in the world still doesn't show me exactly what a training session looks like, and that's what matters most. I will not put my girl in a situation where she will be hurt, mentally or physically.

If Brian thinks Bugs is a good candidate, we're going to make a special vet appointment to make sure her joints and muscles can handle the physical exercise. Her growth plates won't close for another 6 months, so we won't force vigorous exercise, but I think, if this works out, that it will be an awesome opportunity for both of us.